Mon, 10 Feb 2020
West Berkshire residents could see their council tax bills rise by 3.99 per cent from April – but for the first time in years, no cuts to public services are being proposed.
Council tax itself is set to go up by 1.99 per cent – the maximum amount allowed without a referendum being held.
On top of that, a two per cent rise in the adult social care precept – money the council can raise that goes directly towards funding adult social care – is being proposed.
Setting out its proposed budget for 2020/21 at a briefing on Tuesday, the council said that the two combined would raise around £4m of income.
The council has also identified £3m of internal savings which will be achieved through some redundancies and “new ways of working”.
The council’s executive member for finance Ross Mackinnon (Con, Bradfield) admitted that the local authority “did not want to increase the tax burden on our residents”.
But he warned: “If we cut our income we need to find that £2m by making savings.”
Mr Mackinnon said: “When you consider inflation is running at around two per cent, 1.99 per cent is not a huge hike in council tax at all.”
However, he admitted: “I know residents might not see it that way.”
The council has also announced an ambitious capital spending programme which will see £111m invested in the district over the next four years.
This includes money allocated to improving schools, tackling homelessness, investing in roads, the environment, care homes, play areas, public footpaths and more.
The council has allocated £1.5m to improve Robin Hood roundabout and over next two years will invest £1.25m in a programme of tree planting across 100 hectares, including £40,000 on planting trees in urban areas.
A total of £2.4m will be spent on improvements to Newbury rail station, while money has also been set aside for a masterplan for Newbury’s high street – although details at this early stage are scarce.
The council has also announced plans to “access borrowing in a cheaper way”.
Among them is a community bond – which “allows residents the chance to invest in the council”.
The pilot scheme is set to be introduced in May or June.
Mr Mackinnon said: “This will allow residents the chance to directly invest in feel good environmental schemes and give them a personal stake in council’s green strategy while earning money on their investment.
“It’s a win-win all round.”